Cash Machines (ATMs)
ATM's, or 'cash machines' can be found in Kampala, but outside the capital they are almost nonexistent. Don't expect to find them in hotels, streets or at border crossings. Check with your card provider before you leave regarding possible fees for using your card abroad and for drawing foreign currency on it. Cards and fees can vary greatly.
Barclays has about 8 ATM's spread across the city, but such things are rare.
Visa is accepted just about everywhere, but don't expect Maestro or Switch to be accepted. If you can, make sure your bank card has a visa facility before you leave home. Ideally carry two different cards; American Express, Visa or similar brands that are recognised internationally so if one card won't work or becomes damaged you still have access to your funds.
If you are likely to be traveling in remote areas you should check the procedures for canceling a stolen or lost card before you leave home. Many banks will only cancel a card if the named card holder makes personal contact with them to request the cancellation. When it's 3am at home, your mobile phone is almost flat and you don't know the phone number to cancel a card, you will probably make one call - to home. Make sure your bank will allow a trusted person (friend / employer / mum / dad) to cancel the card on your behalf.
Without prior arrangements you may find that your bank refuses to cancel a card until you personally contact them. They wont care that you can't contact them because you have no money. I've come across cases when they refuse point blank to cancel a card, even when they agree that the card owner can't contact them!
If your card(s) are insured, almost any card insurance company, when contacted, will cancel a card immediately.
Banks and Forex
Banks and Forex (Foreign Exchange) bureau can be found in all cities and most larger towns. Exchange rates vary wildly and its essential to shop around if you want to get the best rate. Don't assume that larger international companies will always give the best rates - they don't always do so. When cashing travelers' cheques take proof of identity (passport) and proof that you own the cheques (receipt of purchase).
Once inside a bank, expect lengthy queues for everything, and have all your paperwork handy. This includes your passport, travelers' cheques or dollars cash, proof of purchase of the cheques, and your temporary address in Uganda. You won't get any Ugandan currency without a Ugandan address. They system assumes you are staying *somewhere* which puts backpackers at a slight disadvantage. However, any address seems acceptable. Try using your current or last hotel / hostel or the address you gave on your visa application. If the address is somewhere unheard of, or hard to pronounce, have it written on a scrap of paper that you can hand over when asked.
Many visitors to Uganda are surprised to find armed guards sitting outside every bank and forex bureau. This is common across most of Africa and, yes, the weapons are real and they are loaded. Walking through the line of fire of a loaded shotgun or AK47 is not something we'd usually recommend anyone to consider, but you may find it necessary if you are going to enter shops, banks and hotels in Africa. On the bright side, if you are interested in weapons from the Second World War onwards, you will be in for a few treats!
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